iQue robot by Toy Quest (image from http://www.toyquest.com/ique/index.html)
Its manufacturers, Toy Quest, call it the “world’s smartest robot”. Indeed, the speaking iQue robot on wheels has a superb memory and fact recall. Specifically, iQue knows the entire Meriam-Webster student edition dictionary, thousands of historical and other facts, and can even learn and remember information about its beloved owner. But does that really make iQue smart?
IQue’s marketers claim that it will become “your new best friend”, which seems a far reach. It’s entertaining that it can speak to you, ask you questions, and remember facts about you. Yet you cannot exactly have any real type of communication with the iQue – you must type all responses to its questions in a remote control keypad, and you cannot ask it questions about itself. I find Pleo, which cannot form human words, a better companion since it can interact with you. You can watch it develop as a live being would. It reacts when you play tug-of-war with it over its plastic “leaf”, tugging playfully at the leaf and panting, and it yelps angrily when you hold it up by its tail. In short, it can communicate non-verbally with you in a much more natural way than the iQue can.
Here on in, I will refer to the iQue as a male, based on the sound of “his” voice as well as “his” targeted consumers – four out of four of the people in the advertisement on the toy’s website are boys or men.
The iQue has speech facilities, built-in trivia games, a built-in dictionary, and he can even ask you witty, robotically phrased questions about your life – like “what is the size of your family unit?” or “how many times have you circled the sun?” I find its ability to ask questions and in effect almost converse quite appealing. Behind the guise of its monotonous, digitalized voice are some amusing – and patently human-conceived – phrases and developing personality.
IQue has bright orange wheels, a white-and-blue base, and a head that pops up to speak or folds down to avoid furniture. While he has a remotely life-like head, I find him rather unappealing. He is a bulky oval shape of dimensions about a foot by a foot and a half. His flat, oval white head looks mechanical and unfriendly. The smiling Pleo or even suave Aibo have more endearing appearances and therefore more attractive.
A big issue with the iQue is the interface to interact with him. Currently one uses a tiny keypad to communicate with him. The keypad includes a small two-line display from which to view the Menu of options, essentially a list of ways to interact with iQue. The three-inch wide keypad is difficult to use; I would recommend either a full keyboard or better yet, speech comprehension capabilities (if iQue is so smart, why can’t he understand a word of human-speak?). Although iQue is advertised as being able to communicate with the remote control at up to 30 feet, I have had problems with reception at a mere two or three feet. IQue’s mechanical voice is difficult to understand. Fortunately there is a built-in “Repeat” button on the keypad in the rather frequent case of misunderstanding him, and it does become slightly easier to understand him over time.
In sum, while the iQue’s witty manner of conversing shows creativity on the part of the manufacturers, other robots have a more a appealing interface for interaction and, in areas of interest other than raw memory storage, these other robots appear more intelligent than this “world’s most intelligent robot”.